The Kimberley – Your Guide on What to Expect, When and Why

With its grand yet unforgiving landscape, The Kimberley is often referred to as Australia’s last great wilderness frontier, boasting some of the largest intact natural areas left on the planet and certainly one of the most unspoiled destinations in the world.  

Formed billions of years ago, the 2,000km Kimberley coastline is famous for its awe-inspiring rugged beauty and stunning diversity. The abundance of wildlife and waterfalls, indigenous rock art, gorges, volcanic remnants, mangroves, rainforests and islands, and can often only be accessed by smaller ships and zodiacs.

The region’s remoteness and tropical climate can make exploring this part of the world difficult. Cruising, especially small expedition ships, will allow you to discover this vast and expansive coastline with ease, taking you to destinations that aren’t accessible by land.

With so much diversity we often get asked when is the best time to cruise The Kimberley and what will you see during the different seasons?  Generally, the optimal time is from April through to September. Although you can travel from October through to March, it is extremely hot and humid with substantial rainfall and thunderstorms, often flooding and closing main roads – so perhaps not such an appealing time for most!

Remember, that Mother Nature still determines everything, so please take this as a guide not as gospel!

Waterfalls – April to May

This coast is known for its iconic waterfalls,  including Mitchell, King George and Horizontal Falls and early in the dry season these falls are at full force. The falls are fed by the regions wet season so the earlier in the season you go the more vibrant and spectacular the falls are going to be. The region will also be very green during this time due to the rain. The weather during this period can still be a little grey with quite high humidity and there can be the occasional rainy day, so it is still a little bit of a gamble, particularly in April. However, seeing the falls at their fullest will surely make up for the changing weather.    

Peak Season – June to July

This is definitely the most popular time of year to visit The Kimberley. Primarily because it is cooler, the weather is dry, the skies are blue and generally speaking the temperatures are comfortable. The falls will still be flowing although they will most likely not be at their fullest.

The roads are pretty much in good condition by now and the waterfall swimming pools are full and clean. Remember that the nights in certain areas like the Bungle Bungles can be cool.

Whales – August to September

By August most waterfalls have dried up to a trickle, and most rockpools, although starting to get low, are still clear and great for swimming. This late in the season it is unlikely that Mitchell Falls and King George Falls will still be flowing.  

However, this is the season for wildlife encounters. Being a world-class whale watching region, The Kimberley is home to the world’s largest population of Humpback whales. Up to 30,000 Humpback whales swim from the Antarctic feeding grounds to the warm waters of The Kimberley to breed and give birth.

In addition to Humpback, Southern Right and Blue whales make their way along the coast, sometimes coming close to shore with their calves. The best time to observe these gentle giants tail-slapping and breaching is around noon, when the sun is directly overhead, although it can happen at any time!

An expedition cruise during these months brings you up close a personal with these majestic mammals, watch on as they often put on playful displays around the ship.

But wait – there’s more…

This spectacularly vast region is also one of the last remaining healthy refuges for many threatened and endangered marine species, including six of the seven species of marine turtles, dugong, and countless varieties of sharks, dolphins and fish.

The coastal areas of The Kimberley also offer sanctuary for many species of native mammals and marsupials, reptiles, amphibians, insects and other invertebrates, some that no longer exist in other parts of Australia. It is also home to many species of birds, rare plants, freshwater crocodiles and fish, including catfish and barramundi.

Cruise Express offers luxury expedition cruises to this region with Ponant. These do sell out quickly so enquire today to secure the sailing date and cabin you want. For details on our 2020 options see here.

 

 

 

Hook up with Moira!

Are you a ‘happy hooker’?

Below is a blog written by Moira, our crochet cruise host, for those who are lovers of cruising and crochet (French for ‘hook’). You may not realise what a sensational combo these activities make! We have now made it a reality – all aboard the Cruise Express Crochet Cruise!

Cruising

I believe everyone deserves to cruise at least once in their life and when they do, they are bound to get ‘hooked’, resulting in a lifelong love affair of the cruise experience. So this is how it was for me! I can’t tell you which cruise line or ship I love the most as all cruise lines have something unique to offer, though I am quite partial to a wrap-around, teak promenade deck.

With more than 35 cruises under my belt, I once took some cross-stitch with me and it was then that I realised this was my favourite kind of holiday – guilt-free craft time as I was sailing to sunny destinations – bliss!

Crochet

Crochet is a wonderfully fulfilling and forgiving craft and, with its global resurgence in the last couple of years, has certainly evolved from the daggy granny squares associated with crochet to what is now known as ‘the yoga of craft’, with practical artworks created.

Youtube was my reintroduction to crochet, with many wonderful tutorials there to help guide me. I go into my own little world of mindfulness the moment I have a crochet hook in my hands. Even so, as my WIPs (“work in progress”) became beautiful creations and I enjoyed the zen of something growing in my hands, I craved community, a ‘hook and natter’ so to speak. And that’s where crochet cruising comes into its element.  

Reflecting on our first two  Cruise Express crochet cruises last year,  I am left smiling. To craft solo is lovely, to be in a room with a sea view and brimming with fellow crafters is just splendid.

Crochet Cruising with Cruise Express in October 2019

The cruise package is unique with ALL workshops available to ALL crocheters. Everything is supplied and some coveted hooker tools are included as part of the package.

All our crocheters (hookers) have to do is pack a bag, bring a friend or hubby and come aboard – EVERYTHING plus more is supplied.

Hookers are a hoot of course! Always generous with their time and knowledge, kind and with a delicious, self-deprecating sense of humour.

 A Day at Sea

On our recent crochet cruises, the daily rhythm was quickly established with a morning welcome from with myself, morning workshops and afternoon workshops run by our crochet teachers (including Emily Littlefair of The Loopy Stitch) and lots of social, hooking time.

Our room was set up for both workshops, retail therapy and social hooking and was utilised for about 14 hours a day – stormy day shawls, crossover vests and broom stitch bags were created as new friendships were forged.

It was not all hooking though. We enjoyed spa centre massages, hairdressing appointments, shopping, dining, hot tubbing, swimming, strolling, world-class shows, cocktail hour and shore tours, to name a few activities.

Crochet Cruise

A Day in Port

Shore tours were quickly followed by social hookups as, like homing pigeons, our hookers found their way back to our workshop room at the top of the ship. Much laughter, conversation and show and tell was then followed by a good time before pre-dinner cocktails, dinner and of course a show.

Ahhhhh the life of a cruiser!! Cruising and crochet are a match made in heaven!

I look forward to hookin’ the high seas with you soon – click here to enquire about securing your cabin today on our October 2019 cruise or call a cruise crocheting specialist on 1300 766 537.

Moira Mevissen

Cruise Express Crochet Cruise Host

How would you like to travel to Antarctica?

This ultimate bucket list destination has never been more accessible…

It wasn’t that long ago Antarctica was only accessible to explorers, researchers and scientists – fortunately, this mostly untouched southernmost frozen continent with its spectacular rich wildlife, can now be reached by almost everyone.

An exhilarating trip of a lifetime to one of the world’s most inhospitable and remotest of destinations can be achieved in several ways dependent on budget, tastes and other requirements. The options now available vary to suit intrepid explorers, to luxury cruisers with more time, or those who have limited time and prefer to fly directly. Alternatively you can just fly over the continent for several hours!

With so many options to choose from, there’s almost nothing stopping you… Outlined below are a few of our favourites:

EXPEDITION CRUISING

Imagine immersing yourself in the pristine beauty of Antarctica on a smaller, more intimate expedition ship. One of the beauties of this style of cruising is that it allows you to get up close and personal when seeing the icebergs, glaciers, seals, penguins and whales.

Carrying between 50 and 200 passengers, expedition vessels are able to travel through smaller waterways, and their zodiacs are take passengers right onto the shore. As they have less passengers (and tourist guidelines limit landings to 100 people at a time) everyone will ultimately have more visits to ashore.

If you love cruising with all the bells and whistles of parties, shows, discos dancing, gambling and shopping, then expedition cruising may not be for you.

  

Expedition holidays are more about immersion and education, suiting travellers who are there to really get into the destination and prefer a challenge. It’s important to keep in mind that expedition ships vary from ex-Russian research vessels with shared accommodation and facilities. Current expedition ships are much more modern and luxurious!

The luxurious Ponant line ships, including Le Lyrial and L’Austral, have onboard experts who know about the destination. These experts are available to you throughout your journey and they include naturalists, botanists, marine biologists, historians and geologists.

Super-fit and ultra-adventurous? We suggest you look into the cruises offering kayaking, scuba diving, cross-country skiing, hiking, helicopter rides and camping!

CRUISE SHIP VOYAGES

Large cruise ships are generally more comfortable in rough seas (particularly the Drake Passage) and offer more facilities and activities onboard. Approximately ninety percent of cruise ships depart from the very southern ports of Ushuaia in Argentina or Punta Arenas in Chile.

One of the downsides of the larger ships (those with less than 500), is that because there are very strict guidelines limiting the number of people that are permitted to embark onshore at one time, the opportunities for you to land are ultimately limited.

The ‘over 500-passenger’ cruise ships are not permitted to land passengers at all, so the views can be appreciated from the ship decks only. This may suit some (probably not most), particularly those with mobility issues.

Although the length of cruise holidays can vary, they are usually between 10 days and three weeks, with longer voyages incorporating South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

FLY & SAIL

If you are time poor or suffer seasickness, the best way to see Antarctica would be to fly directly to the Antarctic Peninsula. By doing this you can save on the ‘lost’ days at sea and avoid notoriously arduous waterways. The best part is that you then get to enjoy sailing in the regions calmer waters.

Fly and sail is almost always a more expensive option, but it does cut out a lot of time and enables you to tick one off the bucket list in merely a week or so while still experiencing so much of the majestic landscape and wildlife.

The most popular departure option is from Punta Arenas in Chile, one of the southernmost cities in South America. From there it’s a mere three-hour flight to King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Although this is a highly appealing way to visit Antarctica, we do suggest you keep in mind that flights to Antarctica are less frequent and less predictable than regular flights.

FLY OVER

Chartered Qantas 747’s have been flying over Antarctica on day trips for over 20 years. The approximately 12-hour trip only operates in summer from either Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne. As the warmer weather brings temperatures that start to break up the ice, it’s a great way to put the grand scale of Antarctica into perspective.

It’s an easy way to enjoy the scenery as the planes can descend to around 11,000ft and slow to 240 knots. With a glass of bubbles in hand, you also have the opportunity immerse yourself with onboard Antarctica education, documentaries, as well onboard environment and history experts.

From Australia, it’s a mere three and a half hours until you’ll see the first glimpses of ice sheets and icebergs. Up for something even more remarkable? Go for a 31 December departure from Melbourne to welcome in the near year!

For more information on booking the trip that bucket list dreams are made of, call the travel experts at Cruise Express on 1300 766 537 or email info@cruiseexpress.com.au. 

 

Ultimate Antarctica

Why We Love Expedition Cruising in Antarctica

 

Antarctic cruiseIt wasn’t that long ago that Antarctica was accessible only to explorers, researchers and scientists. Fortunately this mostly untouched southernmost frozen continent with its rich wildlife is now accessible to almost everyone.

There are a number of ways to reach this inhospitable and remote destination depending on your needs. The options vary to suit either intrepid explorers, luxury cruisers with more time, or those who have limited time and prefer to fly directly, or even just fly over for a day.

Despite all the options, our absolute favourite way to see Antarctica will always be on smaller expedition style ships. While we appreciate this may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, we’ve outlined below just a few reasons why it is so incredibly awesome. 

Absolute and intimate

antarctic cruiseWithout all the bells and whistles of big ship shows, discos, casinos and shopping, expedition cruising is all about the immersion and education.

Expedition ships, taking between 50 and 200 passengers, offer a more personal style of service. They are able to travel through smaller waterways, and the Zodiacs (rigid inflatable boats) take small groups of passengers right onto the shores. Tourist guidelines limit landings to 100 people at a time so with fewer passengers onboard an expedition ship everyone will ultimately have more visits and more time on shore. Immersing yourself in the pristine beauty of Antarctica on smaller expedition ships, allows you to get up close and personal with a parade of wildlife, including seals, penguins, pods of whales, and so much more.

Depending on the size of a larger cruise ship, they may not be able to send passengers ashore at all, or you may only have a few hours on your allocated day to ensure everyone onboard ‘gets a go’.

The luxurious PONANT line of ships including Le Lyrial and L’Austral, have onboard experts for each destination. They are available to you throughout your journey and can include naturalists, botanists, marine biologists, historians and geologists.

Why expedition cruising?

antarctic cruiseMany expedition cruise ships suit travellers who are there to immerse themselves in education and the experience, preferring to do whatever it takes to really get out amongst it all. This can be challenging but at the end of the day you are able to come back to luxury and comfort.

While expedition ships upfront seem more expensive, the benefit is that almost everything is included. There are no hidden surprise charges such as shore excursions and activities, with drinks (excluding top shelf) and gratuities usually also included (check with your Travel Specialist).

Research, research

antarctic cruise

Whichever way you decide to visit Antarctica, it is important to do your research, particularly when choosing the right time to visit. The tourist season lasts only about five months – typically from November to March.

During each of these months, something unique happens ranging from pack ice starting to break up, mating, breeding and hatching seasons for penguins and other birds, to when it’s the best time to spot whales.

antarctic cruiseOften mistaken for Emperor Penguins, the slightly smaller but almost identical King Penguin colonies can be found in vast numbers in South Georgia and Crozet Islands, as well as the Falkland Islands and have even been spotted in Patagonia. 

It is very rare to see Emperor Penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula.  If it was your main goal to see Emperor Penguins, we recommend a voyage to Commonwealth Bay, known as ‘Deep Antarctica’.  It is a lot further south and a whole different kettle of fish to the Antarctic Peninsula.

For lovers of nature and all things wildlife including penguins, please click here to look at our Ponant L’Austral 2020 journey.

 

Going one step further

For the super-fit and ultra-adventurous, some cruises also offer kayaking, scuba diving, cross-country skiing, hiking, helicopter rides or camping… just ask your Travel Specialist at Cruise Express and they’ll find a perfect trip to suit you.

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For more information on booking the trip that dreams are made of, contact us at Cruise Express on 1300 766 537,

 

Agency Manager & Expedition Cruising Specialist, Joanna Schuetz

Cruise Express Agency Manager, Joanna Schuetz has over 15 years experience in expedition cruising. Having travelled across all continents on many forms of cruise ships, Jo has a particular passion for and specialises in polar expeditions having been to the Arctic and Antarctica on numerous occasions.

Email Jo today on jo@cruiseexpress.com.au.

 

Griffith Foodie Haven!

Riverina Tourism Boom

Thanks to ‘foodies’ travelling from afar to the unsuspecting food mecca of Griffith, the Riverina region of NSW has seen a significant growth in tourism and revenue over recent years. Many young chefs have even headed or returned home to take Griffith’s food and wine culture to the next level.

WHY GRIFFITH?

Griffith has always been proudly abundant with Italian heritage and culture, showcasing good food and wine. 

The focus on the outstanding quality of local produce and high-end restaurants dedicated to getting back to the roots of Italian cuisine are behind this boom, with several hundred visitors flocking to Griffith every day.

Located in Griffith’s old Rural Bank is Zecca Handmade Italian, dedicated to nourishing the community with the highest quality locally sourced produce. Working closely with local farmers and producers, the food must be seasonal and authentic to regional Italy, showcasing the best of what Griffith and the surrounding area has to offer.

When asked what Daniel thinks of the increase in ‘Foodie Tourism’ to the region, he replied: “People’s thoughts are changing on what’s a tourist attraction, and we’re finding that people are interested in getting back to more authentic experiences. They also now see eating and drinking as a leisure activity.

People have busier lives in general now, so relaxing over good food and wine while on holidays is very appealing. Consumers also now have more interest than before in what they’re eating. There’s more awareness of where the food comes from and the story behind how it’s grown and prepared. People are no longer willing to accept just anything – they want a fresh product and love finding out more about it.”

“Griffith’s multiculturalism and agricultural diversity has offered people from all over the world, especially Italians post-WWII, an opportunity thrive. At the time that many immigrants arrived, the area was prosperous. Even if they arrived in Griffith with nothing, if they had a good work ethic, they could build something. And Griffith is still a great place for new migrants. We are always welcoming new people to our town and they’re able to get ahead. You can see the cultural diversity right throughout the town,” said Daniel D’Aquina of Zecca.

McWilliam's

Limone is an intimate dining experience of pure artistry and is run by local Chef Luke Piccolo. Luke returned to Griffith after training at restaurants in Sydney and Michelin starred restaurants in Italy. Much of his quality produce is picked daily from his local family farm.

There are many outstanding wineries and cellar doors not to be missed in Griffith, many of them family-run including De Bortoli Wines, McWilliams Hanwood Estate, Calabria Family Wines and many more.

The main street of Griffith is lined with thriving Italian cafes, restaurants and delis, bakeries, bars and shopping galore. There really is something to do for everyone, every palate is sure to be satisfied!

TASTE RIVERINA

Since 2012, this month-long series of events runs annually throughout October – beautiful Springtime! Taste Riverina is a collaboration of the region’s finest food producers, showcasing much of the local agricultural produce and food, wine, beer and most importantly, local experiences throughout the Riverina.

Ultimately, the event is designed to inspire visitors to eat healthy fresher food, effectively becoming ambassadors to experience, understand and celebrate locally produced food.

Some of the produce The Riverina is known for includes rice, citrus, lamb, beef, wheat, canola oil, olive oil, grapes, potatoes and pistachios.

2018 events throughout the region will include agricultural tours, cooking classes, food treks, dinners, cafe specials, recipe competitions, local festivals, degustation menus, picnics, and live music.

For more information on how you can immerse yourself in this year’s Riverina food and wine extravaganza click here or call one of Cruise Express’ Travel Specialists on 1300 766 537.